Starting on March 15, some long awaited access regulations will go into effect — regulations that will make travel more accessible to everyone. I’m talking about the new hotel ADAAG;? which will require hotels to make sure that disabled guests actually get the accessible rooms they need.
The new regulations require US properties to:
- Identify and describe the accessible features in their guest rooms and public areas.
- Ensure that guests can reserve accessible rooms in the same manner as non-accessible rooms.
- Hold the accessible guest rooms for use by disabled guests, until all the other guest rooms of that type have been rented.
- Block accessible rooms at the time of booking.
Together these new regulations will help to make sure that accessible rooms go folks that really need them, and not be given away to able-bodied guests who just want the extra room. Which led one astute reader to pose the following question:
“Can the reservation agent ask about the details of my disability? How much personal information do I have to give in order to get an accessible rooms with a roll-in shower??”
Good question. Basically they can’t ask you to certify or prove your disability, but they can ask if you require an accessible room. A simple yes should suffice. Personally I’d say something like “I’m disabled and I need an accessible room with a roll-in shower,” just to make sure you get the equipment you need. Bottom line — they can’t ask the nature of your disability, or require any details about your daily care requirements. A simple self-certification that you are disabled and require a specific type of accessible room will suffice.
That said, I’m sure there will be some glitches in the beginning. Remember, the hospitality industry fought these new regulations from the get-go. I know a lot of folks who are training hotel employees in the new regulations, and all report that the industry as a whole is really not happy about the changes. But it’s the law, so they will just have to deal with it.
So expect some clerks to go over the edge in the beginning. When this happens, just calmly explain that under the law you are not required to divulge the details of your disability, beyond the fact that you require a specific type of accessible room. Be firm and polite.
In the end, these new regulations add some teeth to the ADAAG. Prior to this, hotels were required to have accessible rooms, but they weren’t required to block them for people that need them. The new regulations close that loophole — and that’s something that should have been done many years ago.